Saturday, December 24, 2011

Farewell, Elaine Restifo, mother of many poets including myself

December is the month of Death.

Just learned that Elaine Restifo of Lambertville, NJ, passed away on Dec. 21. She was 79.

I can't think of how to begin to describe her. When I profiled her in my 2004 Compass, I called her a revolutionary, which she certainly was. Here's the profile.

An artist, she expressed herself in painting - a favorite was her "Gandhi" - in sculpture - and in poetry.

She also attended demonstrations for everything she believed in. "Peace" was her chief cause.

Elaine began publishing her River poetry magazine as a young woman. The covers were always spectacular, lots of photographs taken by her friends, who, in the last dozen or so years, began to pass away.

The River Poets used to meet at the homes of various artists in Lambertville. It was a long drive for me, but I so looked forward to those monthly Saturday gatherings. She lived on Elm Street. It was hard to find a parking spot b/c no one had a garage and these were long row houses.

So this is how artists live, I thought as I entered her house for the first time. A rocker sat on her front porch. Inside, she had an amazing collection of rocks that were shaped like hearts.

And she could cook! These poetry meetings became feasts. It did get to be too much so someone put a stop to it.

What's a poetry meeting? You read your poem and everyone critiques it. Then the poet decides what to do w/ the feedback.

One of my greatest memories was when I had a party of poets here on Cowbell Road and a bunch of the River Poets - including Elaine - got into one car and drove over the free Lambertville, NJ, bridge and found their way to my little yellow house.

We met in my backyard with its big tree roots - please don't trip! - from the three maple trees that grew there (two have subsequently been taken down, but I planted trees in Israel to make up for it).

How great our guilt!

And how glorious to have rounded up the poets. I remember a lovely older man named Amadeus. O where are you now, lovely man? Cynthia Marcolina was there. She was published in our last Compass.

And a man arrived for the party in a station wagon. His name was Craig Slingluff, Jr.

I have no idea how Craig found the Kaleidoscope (the poetry section of The Compass), someone must have told him about it, but we published a series of Five Poems For Janice. She ended up in a mental asylum and he wrote the poems for her even though he had lost touch with her.

Just goggled Craig and he's still writing, having published something in a prestigious journal. Read his Mastectomy poem here.

Elaine loved all living things. Even ants. She wrote a famous poem called The Ant Murderer. And she, Elaine, was the ant murderer, leading them out of her house by a trail of honey.

Buddha sat in her backyard. He is awash in grief right now as is everyone who knew this amazing woman.

After I got an email from Liz Bowman saying she died, I called Elaine's daughter Christina. Elaine had had a massive stroke and died in the hospital. She was still alive but her level of functioning was extremely poor. Her surgeon son from CT was in charge of her care. They made the decision not to keep her alive.

Elaine would have wanted it that way.

Her health had been deteriorating for some time so that she had to contemplate entering a nursing home.

She fooled them, didn't you Elaine. Good for you. Up until now, I haven't felt Elaine's presence as I'm writing this post.

However, now, I do hear her voice in my head. I spoke to her last about two months ago. Told her I would send something in to the River.

Her funeral is next Tuesday at 11 in the morning at a little chapel outside New Hope. I don't know how everyone will fit inside.

St Philips Chapel in New Hope, PA.

1 comment:

  1. Craig Slingluff is a physician who wrote the masectomy poem, not the Craig who came to my party and got soused.